20th Sunday Year C - Homily 2

Homily 2 - 2013

I find today’s Gospel quite challenging.  Jesus wished to set the world on fire.  But he had not succeeded.  The general consensus is that he was referring to a world on fire with love.  He was feeling under pressure.  He and the disciples were making their way to Jerusalem.  He could read the writing on the wall, and knew that he would fall foul of the power elites based there – the chief priests, the wealthy aristocratic families and their legal experts.

The reason they would get him was that he radically challenged the political and religious status quo.  He insisted that social interactions should be based on love, respect and sensitivity to minority groups and the socially disadvantaged.  In his mind, that was the only way to achieve any peace worth talking about.  He also realised that the surest way to disturb the peace was to talk about genuine peace – based on true justice and respect for all.

Anyone who genuinely responded to his vision of a world redeemed, of a world really worth living in – of what he called the Kingdom of God – could expect fierce opposition.  They were not themselves to take up the sword, but they could certainly expect to encounter it in one form or another – literally or metaphorically.  By the time that Luke was writing his Gospel, about sixty years after Jesus’ murder, many Christians had already experienced deep and painful family and community divisions.

Interestingly, we are reflecting on today’s Gospel as the nation is gearing up for a federal election.  Also interesting is the fact that, across the world, the Church observes today as the annual Migrant and Refugee Sunday.  Sadly, the issue of migrants and refugees will not figure much in the pre-election discussions since both major parties pretty well see eye-to-eye on their proposed attitudes to migrants and refugees.  What is the motivation determining the general thrust and the particular details of current political policy around the issue?  Self-interest, sectional interest and national interest were the reasons why the power elites got rid of Jesus, and why the population generally went along without much fuss.

Currently we live within the global village.  Today on the world scene there are just over fifteen million genuine refugees mostly living in refugee camps outside their borders – where they have basic food and shelter but little hope for anything else.  And then there are just under one million asylum seekers, using their own initiative, hoping to find some country where they can work, possibly bring up a family and secure education for their children.  We wish there weren’t - but there are.  Closing our eyes doesn’t make them magically disappear.  Their existence is an international problem, needing an international response.

Over the past few months, asylum seekers have been arriving in Australia at the rate that would mean about 40,000 per year.  To concretise that a bit, that would mean on average 4 refugees settling in a place the size of Warracknabeal each year – something like one family of four people.  Hardly a threat to our natural resources or our infrastructure.

Last Thursday was the Feast of Mary’s Assumption.   The Gospel for the liturgy was Mary’s prayer, where she proclaimed aloud how her soul exulted in God – the God who pulled down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly, who filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.  I asked the congregation how they thought Mary might wish them to vote in the coming election.  Since then, I have met four or five different ones who angrily lamented their powerlessness to do anything significant with their vote.  Given the common ground on this issue of the major parties, I suggested that they might consider the personal attitudes of their local candidates who might have some influence within their respective party rooms in future determination of policies,

Jesus is consistently concerned about motivation; because it is our motivations that determine the kind of persons we are.  And the kind of persons we are determines how we experience life personally, and how we contribute to the mood of the community we belong to.  In the long term, we join with Jesus in the ever-relevant, never-ending task of casting fire on the earth.